The Happiest Place on Earth is readying for a very different role than any it’s served through more than 65 years of making magic for theme park guests. Through a new agreement between Disney and local government, Disneyland Resort will soon become the first of several planned mass vaccination sites set to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County, California.
Announced this week as part of Orange County’s new push to establish five large-scale “Point-of-Dispensing” (POD) sites capable of accommodating a high numbers of recipients, the agreement will allow Disneyland to once again open its gates to visitors, after being mostly shut down since March of last year.
But the guests won’t be there to check out Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or take a high-altitude spin on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Rather, mass inoculations at Disneyland and other large-scale area venues (like the nearby Dodger Stadium) are aimed at helping California get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the state especially hard in recent weeks. According to the Orange County Register, new infections have risen “at a dizzying rate” of more than 250,000 cases per week locally, with the pandemic now having claimed more than 2,000 lives in Orange County and more than 30,000 statewide.
As a tourist destination, Disneyland is used to rolling out the welcome mat for everyone. But as a vaccination site, the park won’t be operating on that same first-come; first-serve basis. As in other states, California’s vaccination plan places priority on frontline health care workers and others deemed “essential” under the state’s phased vaccination guidelines. Most who’ll be receiving the vaccine at Disneyland will coordinate their visit through scheduled appointments arranged by their employers, with the first inoculations set to be administered this week.
Rather than reopen under new precautionary measures (as Walt Disney World in Florida did beginning last July), Disneyland has seen its rides and attractions sit mostly idle since the earliest days of the pandemic. That reopening already has shown the dramatic ways the pandemic is reshaping business-as-usual operations at Disney World. In California and elsewhere, though, the hope is that getting the vaccine out to as many people as possible will hasten the time when magical places like Disneyland can get back to doing what they do best: making guests’ wishes come true.